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Increasing supplier diversity in our region

Amotai manuhuia (relationship manager) for Tairawhiti, Tui Babbington. Picture by Paul Rickard
Iconiq Group construction director Nathan Te Miha. Picture supplied

A supplier diversity intermediary is helping Tairāwhiti’s Māori and Pasifika businesses to get contract opportunities.

Amotai (originally named He Waka Eke Noa) was officially established in 2018 by two wahine, Anna-Jane Edwards and Tania Pouwhare who worked in the Southern Initiative team at Auckland Council.

It connects Māori and Pasifika-owned businesses with buyers wanting to purchase goods, services and works. It also verifies and holds a national database of Māori and Pasifika-owned businesses.

Gisborne-based Tui Babbington (Ngāti Porou) is the Amotai manuhuia (relationship manager) for Tairāwhiti.

She started her new role in June and hosted a Hui Kōtuitui (networking event) on September 29 to connect with Māori and Pasifika businesses here.

Mrs Babbington said over 90 government agencies, corporate and iwi were registered as buyers with Amotai.

“They are registering with Amotai because they want to buy from Māori businesses. They all play a part in supporting progressive procurement and supply diversity for Aotearoa.

“Nearly 800 Maori or Pasifika businesses are registered with Amotai and my role in Tairāwhiti is to support the growth of that number for our region.”

Mrs Babbington said the Provincial Development Unit ( Kānoa) had been awarded $3 billion out of which three of the contracts were for Tairāwhiti and had supply diversity targets.

“I’m working with the main contract holders and Kānoa to reach their targets by providing them with Maori business connections.

“One of the projects I am working on is ‘Midway Surf Club’, which was awarded to Dawson Building Co.

“Currently, I am working on a tendering process to look at sub-contractors within the region. I am looking at Māori businesses which are electrical, plumbing, civic construction and helping them go through the tender process.

“The other two projects are Rugby Park and the Waipaoa Flood Resilience Project. I am waiting for the project managers to start in that space so I can understand the projects a little bit more.”

Amotai manu ngangahu (capability manager) Kahurangi Malcolm said there were barriers for Māori and Pasifika businesses to get a “foot in the door”, and the reasons were “systemic”.

“Māori businesses don’t always have the social capital and connections to prove themselves, but once they do, they’re away.

“I think that’s why Amotai plays a crucial role — to be able to connect businesses which haven’t been able to have the opportunity to compete with buyers.

“Māori businesses still need to compete and prove themselves, it’s not a hand out. It’s providing connections to buyers that want to buy from them, but they win contracts based on their own merit.”

Mrs Babbington said the disparity between Māori and non-Māori businesses was going down as more Māori became business owners.

“Māori businesses employ Māori and build capability through their own organisations. They employ three times more Māori than the national average.”

Mrs Malcolm said it would be good to see a spend for Māori and Pasifika businesses which represented “the whole population”.

“Māori and Pasifika make up 25 percent of the population. We have got a target of 5 percent to hit for Māori, and that’s quite a low target but it’s a great start.”

It was good to acknowledge the 5 percent target was a start and would make a difference for supplier diversity. It “helps open the door for Māori businesses,” said Mrs Malcolm.

“Supplier diversity is a great tool to create equity and level the playing field for all. The benefits for communities, businesses and buyers is massive.

“At this stage, because we are in Aotearoa, the first place to start is to create equity for the indigenous people of the land — Māori.

“We have got a long way to go. Australia set a target for indigenous people six years ago and went from spending $6 million a year with aboriginal businesses to over

$3 billion. Their spend percentage is much more representative of their indigenous population.

“We are not near it yet. We have got a long way to go for even getting to represent a third of the Māori population in terms of spend.”

Kāinga Ora – Homes and Communities regional director Naomi Whitewood (Ngāti Porou, Ngapuhi) said Kāinga Ora was committed to supplier diversity and worked closely with Amotai to partner with Māori and Pasifika companies and sub-contractors.

“Recently Amotai held a webinar with their suppliers to discuss how they could work with Kāinga Ora — 130 suppliers dialled in nationally.

“In Tairāwhiti, Kāinga Ora consider social outcomes with every contract that we enter in to. Locally Amotai helped connect Kāinga Ora to Iconiq Group who are now building a number of public housing developments in Gisborne.

“Iconiq Group construction director Nathan Te Miha (Ngāti Porou) is from Te Tairāwhiti and the company employs many local Māori and Pasifika people. Iconiq run a pre-employment programme for rangatahi to get a trade.

“To support the training of apprentices, Kāinga Ora has committed to three build projects each year with Iconiq Group. This ensures there is a pipeline of work for the apprentices to work on.

“Apprentices are led by licensed builders and have been involved in building homes at Iconiq’s Gisborne site that are then transported around the rohe.

“Iconiq Group have built 10 homes for Kāinga Ora in Gisborne and are currently involved in two other developments. They are a good fit with Kāinga Ora as we have shared values and a focus on social as well as economic outcomes.”

Mr Te Miha said Iconiq Group implemented further supplier diversity by enabling local Māori businesses to sub-contract to Iconiq in all areas of the construction trade (builders, plumbers, electricians, civil and drainage contractors, roofers, plasterers and painters).

“When carrying out their respective contract works for Iconiq, this enables them to build their business’s capabilities, increasing their growth and then one day be able to deal directly to government agencies like Kainga Ora.”

Māori and Pasifika businesses can register with Amotai for free at https://amotai.nz/ and contact Tui Babbington on tui@amotai.nz